Although Goa was once the country’s largest exporter of low-grade iron ore, today it is staring at an uncertain future as exports have virtually come to a standstill owing to several factors, including poor prices in the international market.
The mining activities were supposed to pick up from this month. However, in the present circumstances, the miners are not keen to continue with fresh extraction of ore. Some of them even say full-fledged operations are unlikely in the next couple of years.
One of the mine owners, Haresh Melwani, said, “In some places, the extraction of iron ore has resumed after monsoon, but there are no exports happening, which has brought the industry to a standstill.” He predicted that the situation will remain grim for the next two-three years.
A fresh application moved in the Supreme Court by Goa Foundation, an NGO, seeking reduction in the annual ore production capacity from the existing 20 million tonnes to 12 million tonnes, has also aggravated the industry’s problems.
Moreover, the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) is in the process of issuing show-cause notices to 17 mines for “invalid” environment clearances (ECs).
Director of Mines and Geology (DMG) Prasanna Acharya said, “The iron ore mining activities for the season are yet to resume in Goa.” The Supreme Court had banned mining in all 90 mines in Goa from October 2012, based on the findings of the Justice MB Shah Commission report, which estimated a ₹35,000 crore loss to the exchequer due to alleged illegal mining over 12 years. The apex court lifted the ban in April 2014, but put an annual cap of 20 million tonnes on excavation.
The mining operations resumed in August 2015 after various clearances, including environmental, were secured.
The Directorate of Mines and Geology renewed leases of 68 mines, among which 20-million-tonne cap was distributed on pro-rate basis. However, for the season 2015-16, 33 mines resumed operations which extracted 7.30 million tonnes of ore. The State earned a revenue of ₹43 crore in the form of royalty.
The industry picked up in the last season (October 2016 to May 2017) and around 25 million tonnes of ore was produced, which included annual production cap of 20 million tonnes for the financial year ending March. The State earned revenue of ₹400 crore.
The GSPCB, dealing with consent to operate under Air and Water Pollution Control Act, is in the process of issuing show-cause notices to 17 mines for being operational without valid environmental clearance during the last season.
“We are in the process of issuing show-cause notices to 17 mines. These leases, which were granted environmental clearance under 1994 EIA notification, have no validity,” GSPCB member secretary Levinson Martins said. The board has granted consent to 10 mining leases for the season, while another six are awaiting renewal.